Saturday, July 4, 2009

India, homosexuality, Islam, and Christianity

There is, at least from my jaundiced point of view, some hope in the world today, as Delhi's High Court overturns the Indian law declaring same-sex relationships an unnatural act worth ten years imprisonment:

Delhi's High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a "violation of fundamental rights".

The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and made them illegal, was an "antithesis of the right to equality".

The ruling will inevitably be challenged in such a predominantly homophobic society, as evidenced by the statement of a major Indian mullah:

The head cleric of Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque, criticised the ruling.

"This is absolutely wrong. We will not accept any such law," Ahmed Bukhari told the AFP news agency.

What comforts me--and should provide an example for American Christians--is the response of India's Catholic community:

Father Dominic Emanuel of India's Catholic Bishop Council said the church did not "approve" of homosexual behaviour.

"Our stand has always been very clear. The church has no serious objection to decriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults, the church has never considered homosexuals as criminals," said Father Emanuel.

"But the church does not approve of this behaviour. It doesn't consider it natural, ethical, or moral," he said.

Think about the profound difference there would be in American political discourse if Christian leaders--who are free to disagree and even preach against any behavior with which they disagree--accepted the idea that it is not the church's responsibility to criminalize behavior between consenting adults.

It might also affect US foreign policy in some fundamental ways. Consider the treatment of the indigenous LGBT population in our Iraqi colony [excuse me: in our sovereign ally Iraq; it's the 4th of July and I must try to be more patriotic]:

Well, here's one step forward, and about 9,000 steps backwards when it comes to LGBT rights in Iraq. Fundamentalist Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr addressed Iraq's ongoing violence toward LGBT people in Iraq, by urging Iraqi people to reject killing LGBT people, which has become a nationwide epidemic, with several dozen men being murdered in the past few months because of their sexual orientation (or their perceived sexual orientation).

The downside to all of this? Sadr took the occasion to call homosexuality fundamentally evil, and preach conversion therapy through Islamic preaching and teaching. Kind of an odd thing to say, since most of the people murdering LGBT people in Iraq are doing so in the name of radical Islamic teaching and preaching (or, well, at least in the name of how they see Islamic teaching and preaching). *Sigh*

A few of Sadr's zealot colleagues also took the opportunity to call homosexuality a "corrupt phenomena from the West," which is a line of thinking that has proliferated throughout the Middle East and Africa, as grassroots LGBT groups struggle to push for equal rights. Another Sadr ally called homosexuality a disaster, and said it was plaguing the Iraqi population, according to AFP.

All of this highlights the growing need for folks, particularly our own State Department, to spotlight the issue of global violence toward LGBT people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to make violence on the basis of sexual orientation a priority for her office. With the U.S. so heavily invested in Iraq, this has to remain on the radar screen of the Obama administration.

Exactly how Secretary Clinton is going to address this issue with the Iraqis remains kind of vague in my mind, since the Sadr rejoinder to any entreaties would be:

1) The Obama administration recently filed a brief supporting laws against same-sex marriage that employed comparisons to child abuse and pedophilia.

2) The US Military stills tosses even highly qualifieid LGBT troops out of the service.

3) The US criminal justice system, even when it prosecutes people who kill gays, pretty much lets them off with a wink and a nod, despite all the hate crimes laws in the universe.

4) The President of the United States invited a cleric with a known anti-gay agenda to deliver the prayer at his Inauguration.

So Sadr would be at least logically justified in asking Secretary Clinton: Should we pay attention to what you say, or to what you do?

Ah, for a few Indian Catholic Bishops willing to immigrate....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting: ""Our stand has always been very clear. The church has no serious objection to decriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults, the church has never considered homosexuals as criminals," said Father Emanuel."

The CHURCH does not bother with legal and criminal behavior. It's concerns are what is moral, right and within Church teachings.

A familiar phrase is, 'Just because it is legal, does not make it right'.

Fr. Emanuel is misleading.